Online vs Print Designs

May 1, 2008

Writing for print and writing for online websites or blogs or others are very different. Although there are some similarities, which are to be concise, short, simple, easy to understand and credible, there are some differences which can be seen between the two mediums of writing. According to Jakob Nielsen, 79% of their test readers do not read word for word in a web page and only 16% do. Therefore, web pages should have highlighted keywords, meaningful subheadings, an idea a paragraph, the inverted pyramid style of writing, half the word count than a conventional writing and most importantly, credibility. (Nielsen, 1997).


Another point we should take into consideration is that when it comes to writing for web pages, we are catering to a large number of audience. In another article by Sarah Horton on writing for web, if the content of writing on a webpage is more for reference, we should break our information and write for scanning (Horton, 2001) as Jakob Nielsen said that users tend to scan the page rather than read it word for word.


Image from /~webtech/articles

 Image from /~webtech/articles



Meanwhile, for print writing, we can ‘control’ the reader with our content (Redshaw, 2003). Reading text is much different than scanning a text as reading involves comprehension, decoding, responding and analysing at different cognitive levels (Walsh, 2006) while scanning a text, people tend to scan in the ‘F’ shape. (Nielsen, 2006)


Image from





Nielsen, J (1997), How Users Read on the Web. Viewed on 29th April 2008 from


Nielsen, J (2006), F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content. Viewed 29th April 2008 from


Horton, S (2001), Writing for Web. Viewed 29th April 2008 from


Redshaw, K (2003), Web Writing vs. Print Writing. Viewed 29th April 2008 from


Walsh, M. (2006), The ‘Textual Shift”, Examining the Reading Process with Print, Visual and Multimodal Texts, Australian Journal of Languange and Literacy, Vol. 29, No.1, pp 24-37



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